Archive for the ‘Art and Photo Philosophy’ Category
Well, whaddaya know but a few persons Down Under have managed to cause a Photography Controversy in Pom-PomLand!
We almost always post a ‘Controversy of the Week’ on our professional and trade sister site but this is a light-hearted, mmph! type of controversy that is, perhaps, better suited to our retail site.
Surely it is common knowledge that animals too have, er, ‘private parts.’ Tourism Australia – not very smartly, it must be said – posted a picture on its Facebook page of a kangaroo in a reclining posture with his private parts pixelated. The smart thing to do would have been to use another picture altogether but someone at Tourism Australia is evidently enamoured of the look pioneered and popularized by American news channels.
Next thing we know, this misjudgement blows up into a controversy – and who blew it up and where? Why, those chaps Australia is playing the Ashes against in Pom-PomLand!
Daily Mail cried, “Australian Tourism staff cause outrage after posting censored picture of kangaroo.” The Mirror cried, “Kangaroo Facebook picture sparks censorship outrage after Tourism Australia pixelates out animal’s genitals.” Yahoo News UK cried, “Australia tourism bosses cause outrage by censoring ‘full frontal’ kangaroo Facebook pic.” (Emphases added.)
‘Outrage’? ‘Censored’? Note that all three media sources use these words. Shouldn’t responsible media be talking about ‘outrage’ at ‘censorship’ of free speech in almost every country of the world, as speech limitations accrete and accrete and free speech rights erode and erode?
There was and is nothing controversial about the photo, there’s no ‘censorship’ and no ‘outrage’ – Pom-PomLand’s media have misrepresented jokey and mischievous comments, plus some put-downs, on the Facebook page as ‘outrage’ and pixelation as ‘censorship.’ This is actually an interesting example of how a perfectly non-controversial but ill-judged image can be blown up into a controversy by those who want it to become one – this is a manufactured, fabricated, controversy.
A good theory is that they’re just wanting to rub Aussie noses in it after the ongoing debacle in the Ashes. It’s a hundred-to-one they wouldn’t be acting this way if Lillee and Thommo had still been around . . . they’d have had other things on their collective mind.
Yesterday we had blogged about World Photography Day. In our weekly roundup of Interesting and Unusual Photography News, we’ll see how a group of Visual Arts students from an Indian college marked this day.
First, though, how about an amazing gallery of “Amazing Animals” brought to us by The Vancouver Sun. The reason this is (really) ‘amazing’ is that all this wildlife has been shot in a city park!
This 20-plus image gallery actually also has ‘amazing’ photographs: check out this tweet-worthy photograph of a bird apparently feeding its young. Things get ‘amazing’ in another way too: what on earth is this?
This gallery will bring inspiration to any citified photographer who can’t find any wildlife to shoot.
Only last week we had alerted you to a photograph of a rare natural phenomenon: a waterspout and rainbow together. As strange as it may be, another photographer repeated the act. Maciej Winiarczyk, shooting in Scotland, captured a photo of the Aurora Borealis together with noctilucent clouds which are “somewhere between 47 and 53 miles high in the mesosphere, they are composed entirely of ice crystals and can only be seen between certain latitudes during twilight.”
You can see – make that you must see – the gorgeous photograph with otherworldly hues on PetaPixel (via Astronomy Picture of the Day) alongwith a time-lapse of the seldom-seen sight. Tweet-worthy encore!
Anyone who likes the British Royals and Baby Pictures is up for a double treat, for a few hours back The Daily Mail published a picture story by Rebecca English entitled How portraits of royal babies have changed through the generations.
This delightful feature takes us from Sir Cecil Beaton’s artistic portrait study of Queen Elizabeth with infant Prince Charles in 1948 to casual snapshots of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) with infant Prince George (and a lovely black spaniel) taken mere days back.
In between 1948 and 2013, photos of Prince Charles and Lady Diana in their pomp and glory with baby Prince William are also on display.
This picture story brings to the fore changing social attitudes, as reflected in the baby photos, even in Great Britain’s royal family.
What, then, did those Indian college students get up to yesterday? Well, even as they documented slum conditions for posterity, they brought smiles on the faces of the slum-dwellers.
Amutha Kannan, writing in The Hindu, has the story. About 40 students from Hindusthan College of Arts and Science decided to celebrate World Photography Day by giving slum-dwellers something to celebrate: the rare pleasure of having their picture taken – and given to them! The students took a printer with them and handed out free 6x4s to their happy subjects.
The ‘Couture’ Photo Book Maker
PDNOnline has just published an article that is as lengthy and detailed as it is interesting and informative; it is an inside look into the world of ‘couture’ photo book publishing.
Why Gerhard Steidl Is a Book Publishing Master by David Walker is about a man dedicated to the art and craft – to the point of being “obsessed” – of designing and publishing photo books that would usually not be published by traditional / major publishers.
Steidl goes so far as to co-design and do proofing with the photographer being a junior partner and with a stake in the process.
These sessions can get a little fraught and emotional; you’ll read about a female photographer who got tetchy one day and slapped Steidl, and found herself thrown out of his shop. (The article also mentions that the two “made up” after Steidl demonstrated his technical wizardry to her the following day.)
You’ll get to know that Steidl is no ordinary private photo book publisher in any sense of the word: to begin with, his creations are anything but ordinary on top of which he is the commercial printer for Chanel and is the publisher for (besides high-profile photographers) Gunter Grass and Karl Lagerfeld.
A Real-Life ‘Q’
You’ve seen strobe-frozen photos of exploding fruit and droplets in midair countless times. Head over to PetaPixel to learn about the history and science behind this now-well-known photographic technique.
In an appealing article subtitled Paying a visit to Doc Edgerton’s high speed photography lab, Randall Armor talks about the man who “made flashing light cheap and portable, and found endless applications for it,” Harold E. ‘Doc’ Edgerton.
Edgerton, who passed away in 1990, was an inventor and also a professor at MIT where he worked in a lab, now known as ‘Edgerton Center,’ that is filled with the kind of gadgetry that would probably be of great professional interest to ‘Q’ of Ian Fleming’s James Bond series.
The Edgerton Center is where high velocities, high-powered rifles, and high-speed strobes come together to make for high-tech photography. This isn’t only about today or yesterday; Edgerton’s high-tech genius goes as far back as the 1950s when he had photographed pioneering high-speed images of nuclear bomb tests.
Read the article to find out what happens (or doesn’t happen) when a bullet goes through a cream doughnut and see an incredible image of a bullet tearing edgewise through a business card.
A Myrmecologist’s Gallery
DPReview writes that ant fights include “brutal take-downs that rival UFC brawls.” Poetic flight of fancy, straightforward facts, or something in-between? Look at this photo and you will be able to make a quick and correct decision.
DPReview’s very specialized story on ant Macro Photography is about the strange passion of Alex Wild who seems to have photographed ants in many parts of the world and seems to know a lot about their loves and lives to the extent that his website has a special section devoted to ‘Ants Fighting’ and has a top-level heading, ‘Ants’ where you’ll find out that, besides being a photographer, Wild is also a ‘Myrmecologist’!
All that explained, most any photographer interested in Macro Photography will be blown away by Wild’s photographs of insect warfare.
A Humourist’s Gallery
How would you like to tickle a brown bear under the ‘armpits’ and make it howl with pleasure? At least that’s what someone in a photo by camera-toting funnyman Zack Seckler seems to be doing – and to a wall-mounted stuffed animal, at that!
If that joke is a little too ‘hairy’ for you, how about a lion patiently waiting at a deer crossing?
PetaPixel has just run a story on Seckler’s photographic pranks and visual puns. There is no doubting his imagination and his technical skills to execute his vision with a camera. Seckler’s website has a whole section under the heading ‘Humor’ that’s loaded with whimsies galore.
Seckler’s humour and artistry combined and found a high point in a marvellous photograph of some type of monkey or lemur in a barren, dead tree in a desert!
Any photographer who feels jaded and needs a ‘shot’ of inspiration might want to pay a visit to Seckler’s online gallery.
A Celebrity Passport-Picture Gallery
Okay, let’s double up on humour, shall we?
Sarah Gilbert and The Guardian are surely severely starstruck: this oh-so serious, snooty and high-minded newspaper says that celebrities’ “true glamour” cannot be “dim[med]” even by that terrifying and notorious glamour-dimmer (shudder!), the “brutality” (sic) of the “photo booth”
Leaf through this gallery to view an airbrushed pic of Marilyn, a flaky-looking Virginia Woolf, a scary, zombie-like Janis Joplin, and a waxwork of Whitney. Whoever finds ‘true glamour’ here should try his/her chances searching for Long John Silver’s pieces of eight.
You’ll be chuckling and giggling all the way, not only at the photos, but, at The Guardian getting all silly and dizzy about funny photos.
We post a near-weekly article on a controversy in the Photography Industry on our sister blog on our professional site. Let’s change ends and bring one controversy to our consumer-side readers.
Controversy, it seems begets controversy. Though this one is flying under the radar, the issue is not any the less controversial. About six months back we had blogged about the ‘Instagram Controversy.’ That situation had given rise to a class action lawsuit. Today, Facebook, owner of Instagram, is both relieved (and perhaps a little cock-a-hoop) that the lawsuit “was dismissed by a judge last Friday on procedural grounds.” This judgment is available on Gigaom and PhoneArena.
Note the key term ‘procedural grounds.’ That means that the underlying alleged facts of the case did not come into play. The class action was always going to be an uphill struggle; after all, Instagram/Facebook did not sell harmful products nor did they even mislabel a product or service. They pulled a ‘switcheroo’ on users who were using a free service. Users who were unhappy with the switcheroo were free to terminate their accounts and take their (unpaid) business elsewhere.
That’s just the ‘common sense’ view. With the alleged facts never being looked into (because the class action was procedurally deficient), one cannot tell whether or not the lawsuit, which pertained to ownership of rights of a web-service user’s photographs, had any merit or not.
All that said, perhaps we can draw an inference from a very revealing question cum plea out there on Facebook itself; in the write-up by David Cohen on its own site: “Readers[,] Is there any point to this case, since Instagram already reverted to its prior terms of service?”
“. . . reverted to its prior . . .” But why? Aha! So Facebook/Instagram pulled a switcheroo on the switcheroo – a double U-Turn – because and after ‘they got caught’!
So what would have happened had there been no outcry, no uproar, no controversy? Facebook isn’t telling but it’s reasonable to infer that that there would have been no second change of direction . . . . Silently, quietly, Instagram may well have been enjoying some or another fruits from their unwitting users’ photographs!
Now ain’t that controversial?
Execution of a Viet-Cong, Napalm Girl, and Reaching Out are the three iconic images of the Vietnam War. These photographs were taken by, respectively, Eddie Adams, Nick Ut, and Larry Burrows.
In all truth one other photographer’s name ranks right up there; though somehow none of his Vietnam War images became an instantly-recognizable global sensation, his body of work is perhaps superior to those of any of the other three photographers. In addition, he was also an AP Photo Chief; indeed, it was this very photographer-editor, based in Vietnam, who approved and pushed both, Adams’s Execution of a Viet-Cong and Ut’s Napalm Girl! And, arguably, it is one of this photographer’s War Photographs that unforgettably conveys the indescribable raw terror of war . . . .
Let’s remember Horst Faas, a War Photography titan, on his first death anniversary.
Last year Denver Post published a fantastic collection of Faas’s Vietnam War photos in high-res. (Caution: Some images are extremely graphic; others are equally distressing.) These are among the best, the very best, images of war you’ll ever see.
With Faas, you get harrowing, shocking images of an American GI implicitly bidding farewell to his dying buddy . . . and a Vietnamese woman explicitly bidding farewell to her dead husband.
You get art photography like this image of infantrymen crossing an arcing bridge or a minimalist nighttime silhouette of soldiers, smoke, and spotlight, each of which is suitable for framing and hanging.
There’s a village pathway littered with corpses. And what about children on motorcycles going along a road that is verily strewn with corpses as if this is a day-to-day reality?
If you’ve seen Apocalypse Now, here’s a photo that will play back Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries in your mind.
How about this brilliantly composed and executed photo of haphazardly collapsed soldiers fast asleep with one lad wide awake?
Even a simple photograph, by dint of its composition, perspective, and angle of elevation, becomes a riveting document of war.
This character study and portrait conveys what ‘all senses on red alert’ means. Here is another character study and portrait, albeit one that is radically different. Do we see dignity in this woman’s sorrow or is it just me?
Here’s a moving, wonderfully ‘tight’ (close-in) photo of tough warriors weeping for fallen comrades.
Faas brings us a smiling blue-eyed boy informing us that ‘War is Hell’ to be contrasted with a blonde lad with ‘KILL’ emblazoned on his hat.
You are thrilled by the drama of seeing a Hannibal-like elephant-back force crossing a river . . .
You are distressed at seeing a submissive captive being ‘pistol-whipped’ with the handle of a knife . . .
—And you have your heart rent by a photo that is the ‘Pieta’ of the Vietnam War.
Faas also covered the Congo Conflict, among other war zones, such as East Pakistan / Bangladesh. His photo of a wild-eyed Baluba warrior with a stick is as terrifying a photo as you will see.
All these photographs reveal that, besides being a gifted photographer, Faas was a very brave man; a man among men.
Perhaps Faas’s most famous image is the unnerving, shocking image of a Vietnamese peasant showing an apparently dead child to American troops on an armoured vehicle, almost as if saying, “Why did you do this? Why?”
However, Faas shot the haunting, unforgettable image of images that defines the raw terror of war – descriptions are superfluous. This photograph ought to be as famous as any other war photo. Look into the womens’ eyes (and contrast with the blissfully uncomprehending baby’s expression). Look once, you’ll never forget. How the photographer managed to shoot this particular instant in quite the way he did is beyond analysis. This image too needs to be distinguished by a universally-known name.
If someone declares that Horst Faas is the greatest of the extinct breed of authentic War Photographers, no argument would be made by this writer.
Only a few days back we blogged about a photographer from South Korea who cut his teeth in America. Today we bring to you a photographer from America who has a portfolio on South Korea. The ‘contrasts’ continue: the South Korean photographer shoots in a derivative, personalized ‘fine art’ style while the American espouses a more documentary, hard-edged, ‘classic’ street shooting style. As street shooters, though, both have one thing in common: a love of Leica.
Though this Leica interview is from May 2011, it’s worth checking out Eric Kim: Korean Street Photographer from Los Angeles as a sharp ‘contrast’ to The “Fine Art Street Photography” of K. Chae.
The phrase “candid moments of everyday life” defines Kim’s style well and the sentence “street photography . . . is less about the image but more about the story behind it” completes the definition as it distinguishes his style from Chae’s. This photograph of two women sharing an umberella on a rainy night (somewhat reminiscent of Brassai?) is the exemplification of Kim’s street shooting philosophy.
Check out this somewhat Cartier-Bresson’ish image (a very high compliment, yes). The static pose of the mime (or statue, whichever it is) is set off wonderfully by the moving woman, with the viewer’s eye enjoying a further distraction in the geometric lines and curves of the interior architecture.
Here’s something radically different: an overtly geometric, symmetrical and artistic photograph. This image also projects a sense of direction: notice the narrow beams of light in the top half of the image and the broader ones at the bottom (both of which are laterally symmetrical and directed upwards), the movement of the bicyclist, and the arrow at the bottom.
Kim is also an active blogger who plugs other photographers, offers tips, and announces his workshops. You may want to read a few tips or attend a workshop if you want to capture a “candid moment [with] a story behind it” as in this delightful image.
Going back to Kim’s definition of his style, perhaps he is more versatile than he thinks he is: doesn’t this sharply gradated, evocative, unusual silhouette count as . . . ‘Fine Art Street Photography’?
Ben Evans presents, not a tutorial, but, an unusual analysis and a partly philosophical approach in what he calls ‘Holistic Photography,’ published on DPSchool.
Evans’s philosophical bent is made evident by sentences such as “The world is apparently 4.54 billion years old” and “If we were content with what the world presented us with, we would still be living in caves.”
As you read Evans’s article, you may well conclude that he ‘overthinks’ it. Bear in mind that his contribution is an analysis-cum-approach to give a photographer a fresh perspective on our art-cum-science . . . having said which one may as well state that the article opens with exploring the polarity between art and science that some photographers – according to Evans – are wont to fall prey to.
Several questions and position-points demonstrate how and why a strong leaning either toward science or art is taken by a photographer, and how and why it is worthwhile to fuse the two into, shall we say, a ‘holistic’ approach.
Evans says that this can be done “by providing a structure, the Quartet” which comprises of “the Idea, the Light, the Composition and the Timing.”
This structure is nothing if not thorough. Even Composition is subdivided into two parts; ‘Command’ and ‘Significance’. Command can be considered the ‘hard’ and scientific aspect of Composition whereas Significance is the term for the ‘soft’ and subliminal cues in the Composition. When broken up like that, one is provoked into putting in more careful consideration into the act of composing – but one may also run the risk of over-analyzing or overthinking a simple, natural opportunity.
Consider this: over and above a division between art and science, which Evans identifies, many photographers are gravitated toward, and have a bias for, one or another component of Evans’s ‘Quartet’! Indeed, some famous photographers are renowned for their magical lighting (did someone say Adams?) while others are celebrated for ‘capturing the moment’ (Timing) (did someone say Cartier-Bresson?)
Because of this fact – notwithstanding Evans’s advocacy of holism – each photographer may find something in the ‘Quartet’ to expand his/her understanding of his/her own particular liking or bias!
On rare occasions photographs become so famous, so instantly-recognizable, so much a part of a culture, that they become known by a short, informal name. The Vietnam War spawned three such photographs: ‘Execution of a VietCong’ by Eddie Adams, ‘Napalm Girl’ by Nick Ut, and ‘Reaching Out’ by Larry Burrows. Tomorrow, 10th February, is Burrows’s death anniversary. He was killed in a helicopter crash after he had returned to Indochina in 1971 to cover the war’s spreading into Laos.
Larry Burrows was a staff photographer for LIFE and he travelled extensively, specializing, so to speak, in areas that were wracked with tumult and conflict. Burrows was a famously discreet Englishman with a modest nature and a brave heart whose photographs were regularly printed in LIFE – except for his touchstone image, which was photographed in 1966 but not published until 1971.
In ‘Reaching Out’, one looks into a devastated, otherworldly landscape; it is the slate on which a human drama seems to be playing out, frozen by Burrows’s camera: a wounded and stricken soldier is seated propped up against a blasted stump while a comrade, also wounded and looking equally stricken, seems to be ‘reaching out’ to him. The ‘co-star’ soldiers around the Michelangelo-esque twosome lend human interest to this tension-fraught photograph.
The fact that Burrows captured a special and unique moment is made evident in a subsequent frame which shows that all the tension and ‘fraught-ness’ that permeates the iconic image dissipated in perhaps a minute. That frame alongwith a remembrance to Burrows and his immortal photograph is available on LIFE’s Behind the Picture series.
No less than another fantastic war photographer, AP’s Horst Faas, who shot perhaps the most astonishing and remarkable portfolio of images of the Vietnam War, wrote: “Larry Burrows was the most versatile press photographer I knew . . . . If there would have been a vote for the most respected and loved newsperson in Vietnam, Larry would have almost certainly come out tops . . .”
A Thousand-Word Lie
“One picture is worth a thousand words”, so goes a hackneyed old saying. If the saying is true and that picture is a lie, then what do we have? We have a thousand-word lie. And it is indeed possible to lie in photography; from fibs and little white lies through to out-and-out deceptions and black lies.
This subject has gained popularity of late to the extent that a full-blown exhibition “devoted to the history of manipulated photography before the digital age” is underway at no less than the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop features 200 doctored photographs “created between the 1840s and 1990s.” Ironically and appropriately at one and the same time, this exhibition is sponsored by Adobe Systems, makers of Photoshop.
The objective of this series of articles is not to provide an enumeration of manipulated photographs and doctored images; the thesis of this series is referred to in the sentence above, “a thousand-word lie.”
From a religious perspective, lying is considered sinful; from a secular legal perspective, lying under oath is a criminal offence. In general, lying is looked on with disfavour and issues of righteousness and trust rise up. As such, where lying is concerned ethical implications exist, be the medium words or images. Theology and Philosophy have laid down guideposts on the matter of falsehood and lie but, because cameras, let alone Photoshop, were not exactly commonplace in, let us say, the respective ‘heydays’ of Theology and (Classical) Philosophy, the subject of lying via pictures is not one for which the ‘rules’ have been laid down.
Photoshopping and Falsehood
Since the invention of retouching tools and the airbrush over a century ago it has never been the case that a photograph is, or has to be, an accurate and truthful reflection of reality. Yet until only a decade ago before ‘Photoshopping’, using Photoshop and equivalent applications, caught on in the consumer mass market, a photograph was considered to be a definitive ‘snapshot’ of reality. “It’s a photograph!” meant that the photograph was, ipso facto, an ineluctable proof of itself. This attitude still holds true in less-advanced nations who remain unaware of ‘Photoshopping’ (and even of Forrest Gump and Industrial Light and Magic, ancient as they are).
Lying via an image is many-hued; as mentioned, a photo may be pictorial fib or ‘little white lie’, an unspeakable black lie, or anything and everything in between, including distortion and fabrication.
Just as with the spoken word, such a photographic falsehood can sometimes be inadvertent. Lighting, perspective, focal length, and faulty processing are a few of the reasons a photograph may end up as a false window on the world. Intentional photographic falsehoods range from sly retouching to object removal to software-based image manipulation and reconstruction, and even constructing or reconstructing a scene for a shot, to be passed off as an authentic, as-it-happened photograph.
Kinds and Types of ‘Photographic Lies’
Where intentional photographic falsehoods are concerned, the underlying motives must also be examined. Is the motive harmless family fun or a friendly prank? Or is deliberate deception the goal? Is the motive to deceive a nation or conceal a crime? Or ‘merely’ to sell airline tickets and resort rooms? These are not hypothetical what-ifs and abstract questions; a number of such instances of photographic manipulation have acquired notoriety over the years though other instances, as bad or worse in the extent of image manipulation, photographic lying, and ulterior motives, have escaped media scrutiny or the public eye. We shall examine:
- Men’s magazines and fashion glossies: airbrushing and retouching centrefolds and models;
- The impact of illusion on, both, men’s expectations and young women’s self-image;
- Double standards Ð while some are made more beautiful, others are made . . . more ugly;
- ‘Making the Sale’ with a photograph Ð how far is ‘too far’?
- Adding elements into a photograph and wholly fabricating a photograph;
- Removal and airbrushing elements not only out of a photograph, but, out of history;
- Fakery and manipulation in purportedly authentic war photos from the field;
- Artificially staging a photograph to be passed off as if captured in nature;
- Focal length, and a telephoto lens’s inadvertent lie that triggered a nationwide furore;
- From dodging and burning to the marvels of Photoshop, where to draw the line?
Can the grey zone of ethical ambiguities be resolved via such a situational, case-by-case evaluation? Or will they yield an incoherent set of ‘answers’ that vary by circumstance and context?
In all likelihood, expecting a Uniform Photographic Code of Ethics may be a bridge too far but, perhaps, a reasonable delineation between what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable, what’s ethical and what’s unethical, will be possible to tease out as we progress through this series of articles inquiring into the Ethics of Photographic Manipulation.